Monday, April 16, 2012

Baby bunnies

I hardly know where to start.  I have so many memories stirring in my head.

After reading Melanie's post about her normal weekend, I thought, again, how Caroline will enjoy reading her mom's blog and remembering all the fun, normal, exciting things that she did growing up.  She can do that because Melanie has taken the time to write it all down.  As I said in my last post, I am really hung on the horn of a delimma about how much to share of our lives with the www.

I've decided to just write King and Princess an email each week.  That way, I can keep a journal of our lives, but not publish it for the whole world to see.  Sort of like a private blog.  (gasp)  Such a novel idea.  Not.  I could be really retro and write with a pen and paper.  But, I type faster, so in the interest of actually getting it done, it will be in digital format.

One thing I will share: we rescued baby bunnies this past month.  King was shredding with the tractor at our school's barn and in the process, mowed over a cottontail's nest.  We found the nest the next day.  The mom had abandoned the nest, two of the six babies were dead.  We rescued the other four and, with milk from Hope, the nubian/alpine goat, we fed them with a baby eye dropper morning and night.  They were about 2 weeks old when we rescued them.  We cared for them a week and then the biggest two went to live with a friend.  She released them when they weaned themselves after several days.  They are doing great.

We kept the smaller two and continued caring for them until the biggest one weaned itself.  S/he was released in our back yard on Friday morning.  Our back yard always has cottontails - adult and babies - so I knew it would be a good release spot for them.  The last one, named Star, is still with us.  Star was the runt and is now thriving.  (We are assuming Star is a boy, but who knows.  We raised rabbits when I was in high school, so I know how to "sex" the rabbit, but I don't want to stress these wild bunnies and subject them to that indignity.  It doesn't matter which it is anyway.)  All the other bunnies stayed very wild, for which I am thankful.  Star is more tame now, so he will probably stay inside or close to our back yard.  It was not my intention to make Star tame, but he has been hand fed for so long that he has become comfortable with being held.

Some things I learned:
  1. momma bunny feeds twice a day, at morning/eveing.  Treating them like mom is best in order to help them thrive when released.
  2. baby bunnies nurse belly up, on their backs.
  3. it's easier to feed the babies if you wrap them in a soft cloth (I used microfiber) and keep their eyes covered.  Just uncover the mouth and nose.  Keeping their eyes covered helps them to relax and feel safe to eat.
  4. Keep the bunnies in a well ventilated box, in a dark and very quiet room.  I kept them in our garage, with the light off.   Only open the box to care for them twice per day.  Note:  I fed at around 9 pm and 7 am.
  5. Rabbit milk is very high in calories, so supplementation by our Nubian goat was perfect. 
  6. I did not add anything to the goat milk.  The goat milk was raw and unpasturized.  Their digestive system worked well without probiotics. 
  7. Do not squirt the milk into the mouths, but mostly let the rabbits suck it out of the eye dropper. 
  8. The line from the mouth to the nose is a great syphon into the nose.  Drat!  It was hard to keep the bunnies from breathing in the milk.  This got easier as they grew and the mouth was a larger target.  So, start feeding with a tiny tip on the eye dropper.  I was using my daughter's former baby eye dropper, so it had a fairly large hole at the end.  It was all I had, so I made it work.
  9. Baby bunnies eat a lot of milk at one time because God made them to drink milk only twice per day.  Don't be worried about giving them too much.  They will stop drinking when they are full (make sure that they have not stopped because they were scared by noise/movement).  Use the guideline below.
  10. Be sure that you feed them in a quiet environment so that noise and movement do not scare them.  They will stop drinking if they feel threatened.
  11. They loved, loved, loved Romaine lettuce.  I picked dandilion, clover, wild grasses to add to their lettuce.  I also gave them alfalfa pellets that I feel my horse.  The runt is the only one who seemed to like the alfalfa.  The older two that my friend released, immediately started eating weeds when they were released. Hooray!
  12. We released the older three in the morning hours so they could have all day to find a hiding spot.  We put out water and lettuce to give them something to eat while they were getting their bearings.

How much to feed:
Newborn to One Week: 2 - 2+1/2 cc/ml each feeding (two feedings per day).

1-2 weeks: 5-7 cc/ml each feeding (two feedings per day). (depending on bunny..may be much LESS if smaller rabbit!) Newborn babies (if eyes closed) all need to be stimulated to urinate and defecate prior to or following feeding until their eyes open. (Except Jackrabbits do not). 

2-3 weeks: 7-13 cc/ml each feeding (two feedings). Domestic eyes open at about 10 days of age. Start introducing them to timothy and oat hay, pellets and water (always add fresh greens for wild ones).

3-6 weeks: 13-15 cc/ml each feeding (two feedings--again, may be LESS depending on size of rabbit! A cottontail will take so much less!! Half this at most.) Domestics are weaned about 6 weeks. Cottontails wean and release about 3-4 weeks and jackrabbits much later (9+ weeks).

Here is the area of my yard where I released my oldest bunny.  Isn't it a great place to eat, live and hide?